Vitamin B12 helps make DNA and keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. A deficiency in Vitamin B12 can cause irreversible damage to the nerve cells and impair a person’s the quality of life, according to medical website Livestrong. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a number of unsettling symptoms. Lacking the vitamin can cause a range of symptoms associated with the gut.

A blood test is needed to confirm the condition

Harvard Health

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people with a vitamin B12 deficiency may experience the following symptoms associated with the gut:

  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal bloating and gas
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

People may also experience an enlarged liver, added the health site.

According to Harvard Health, other symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
  • Difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
  • Anemia
  • A swollen, inflamed tongue
  • Difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue

While an experienced physician may notice the symptoms and be able to detect a vitamin B12 deficiency with a good interview and physical check-up, a blood test is needed to confirm the condition, explained the health body.

“It’s a good idea to ask your doctor about having your B12 level checked if you are a strict vegetarian or have had weight-loss surgery or have a condition that interferes with the absorption of food,” added the health site.

Early detection and treatment is important. If left untreated, the deficiency can cause a number of serious complications, such as severe neurologic problems and blood diseases, it added.

According to the NHS, a vitamin B12 deficiency caused by pernicious anaemia, a condition where a person’s immune system attacks healthy cells in their stomach, can increase a person’s risk of developing stomach cancer.

How to treat it

The vitamin can be topped up by eating certain foods. Good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Meat
  • Salmon and cod
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Eggs

If a person is vegetarian or vegan, or are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products, there are other foods that contain vitamin B12, such as yeast extract (including Marmite), as well as some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products, noted the NHS.

The health body also recommends checking nutrition labels while food shopping to see how much vitamin B12 different foods contain.

People with a vitamin B12 deficiency may also be prescribed injections.

There are 2 types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin

To check a prescribed treatment regime is working, people may need to have further blood tests, according to the NHS.

A blood test is often carried out around 10 to 14 days after starting treatment to assess whether treatment is working.

This is to check a person’s haemoglobin level and the number of the immature red blood cells (reticulocytes) in their blood, noted the health body.

“Another blood test may also be carried out after approximately eight weeks to confirm your treatment has been successful,” it added.

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